DISCLAIMER: Murder in Suburbia and its characters are the property of ITV. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Part of the FSAC:DD11. Thanks to Ann for the beta.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
FEEDBACK: To ralst31[at]yahoo.co.uk
Words, Action, Reaction
"Do you mind telling me what the hell is going on?"
Scribbs looked up from her position, astride a baffled and blushing Chief Inspector Sullivan, to gape at her partner. Ash did not look amused; in fact, if Scribbs was any judge, she looked downright homicidal. "I can explain," she spluttered, attempting to disengage herself from Sullivan without touching anything she shouldn't.
Ash's shoulders tensed and the last remaining trace of humanity drained from her countenance. It was a look Scribbs had never seen, but one she knew instinctively to fear and, so when Ash turned to leave, her arms ramrod straight at her sides, she didn't automatically rush after her.
"Do you think we should...?" Sullivan waved his arm vaguely in Ash's direction as he scrambled to his feet, the blush colouring his features making him look rather boyish and confused.
Scribbs shook her head. "I'll talk to her later." She'd give Ash an hour or two to calm down and then explain the obvious - a slip, a fall, nothing more - and accept a thin-lipped apology followed by a bottle of wine and whatever takeaway Ash thought would appease her conscience.
Two hours later, however, Scribbs was left standing alone in the car park as she watched Ash's car careen around the corner and out of sight. The explanation had turned into a defence and the defence into a shouting match as Ash accused her of literally throwing herself at Sullivan. Scribbs, in turn, had reflexively countered by accusing Ash of being too uptight to make a move on the man she so obviously loved.
"Bugger!" The argument had left a bitter taste in Scribbs' mouth, but she had no idea how to alleviate the distaste she felt at their parting. For years, they'd bantered and teased about the men in their lives, Sullivan amongst them, but they'd never argued about something as inconsequential as a man. "She must really love him," Scribbs mumbled to herself, the truth of the situation lowering her spirits even further.
Unprepared, but also unwilling to let things stand as they were, Scribbs quickly got into her car and set a course for Ash's flat, determined to knock some sense into her partner even if it took all night and a bottle of cheap vodka.
"Open up!" Scribbs banged again on the door. She knew Ash was inside, she'd seen her car in its usual spot and wasn't about to leave until she'd said her piece. "Ash!"
"Will you please shut up!" Ash hissed, opening the door an inch to glare at Scribbs, the thick chain making it impossible for Scribbs to rush inside.
"No." Scribbs crossed her arms and stared pointedly at the chain barring her entrance. "I either say what I've got to say out here, for everyone to hear, or I come inside and say it there." She smirked. "Your choice."
Normally, Ash would have rather eaten live worms than have her neighbours become involved in her private life, but she wasn't about to give in to Scribbs' demands. "Out with it."
"Fine." Scribbs wasn't quite sure where to start, so she just blurted out the obvious. "I don't fancy Sullivan." The chain didn't so much as quiver. "He's all yours, trust me, I wouldn't touch him with a barge-pole." That felt somewhat disloyal, so she had to add, "Not that there's anything wrong with him, the Boss I mean, but he's just not my type." She shrugged. "So there's no need to be jealous."
"Jealous! You think I'm jealous?" The chain more than rattled as Ash disengaged it from the door and literally yanked Scribbs into her flat. "You idiot!" Ash's lips crushed against Scribbs' as she pressed her up against the wall and kissed her for all she was worth.
Scribbs' eyes practically bulged out of her head as Ash stepped back and awaited a reaction. "You kissed me." Stating the obvious was one of the first signs of shock, so Ash made no response and merely waited for the next shoe to drop. "I thought you liked Sullivan?" The little wheels inside Scribbs' head began to turn slowly. "But it's me you like?"
"Yes." Ash wanted to scream at Scribbs to either slap her or kiss her, anything rather than stand there, looking gormless, and spouting the obvious.
For Scribbs, the kiss had come so far out of the blue that she didn't know what to think or feel. "You're gay?" Labels weren't really important, but Scribbs was hoping the question would at least buy her some time.
"Bisexual," Ash snapped.
Whenever Ash started issuing one word answers Scribbs knew she was in trouble. "I'm not," she said. "Gay, I mean." Men had always just been there, convenient and not to be taken too seriously, so Scribbs had never really bothered to consider the alternative. There had been that one time, on New Year's Eve, when she'd snogged some woman down the pub, and another at a particularly interesting office party where she'd ended the night in some strange woman's bed, but it wasn't as if she'd ever gone out looking for a female date.
"Fine." Twin spots of red marked Ash's cheeks, but other than that she looked as professional and aloof as always. "Forget I brought it up."
"What?" Scribbs had been caught down memory lane and had missed Ash's transformation from love-sick desperado to little Miss Prim and Proper. "Shouldn't we talk about this?"
"There's nothing to say." Ash had buried her feelings for years, and despite the utter humiliation of the moment, she was confident she could do so again. Opening the flat door, Ash motioned Scribbs towards the exit, "If you don't mind, I'd rather be alone right now."
"Please, Scribbs, not tonight, okay?"
Three weeks later, things had returned to normal, at least for Ash, whose powers of repression were somewhat legendary. Scribbs, on the other hand, hadn't slept more than a couple of hours a night since the incident and was slowly going insane with self-doubt and confusion. Until the kiss, Scribbs had never once questioned her feelings for her partner; she loved her, yes, but it was that special kind of love reserved for best friends, not the hot and sweaty kind she bestowed on the Neanderthals in her life. At least, that was what she'd always assumed, but the memory of Ash's lips pressed against her own had refused to fade and Scribbs was no longer certain about anything.
"How do you know if you're gay?" she asked Sullivan, her need of a confidant too acute to worry about office protocol and other Ash type rules. "I mean, if you've only ever fancied blokes?"
Sullivan had at first suspected that Scribbs was referring to the erroneous rumours about his relationship with his next door neighbour, Gary, and the three week holiday they were planning to California. Then he'd registered the second part of her question. "You think you might be gay?" He'd long assumed that Ash and Scribbs were more than friends, so the question took him by surprise, not that he let it show in his voice.
Scribbs shrugged. "I dunno."
Personal talk of this nature wasn't Sullivan's strong suit, but he was fond of Scribbs and couldn't in good conscience let her wallow in self-doubt without a sounding board or shoulder to cry on. "Is this about Ash?" If he was going to do the job, he was going to do it properly. "Are you in love with her?"
"Yes." One answer fits all, Scribbs thought, even if she hadn't realised it until the word had barrelled past her lips. "It's crazy, I know, but I think I am."
"Then does it really matter if you're gay?" Sullivan had never much cared for labels and doubted Scribbs would ever fit into just one. "Have you talked to Ash?"
"No." She'd tried, but Ash refused to entertain the subject and carried on as if the kiss and admission that followed were a figment of Scribbs' imagination. "She won't listen."
"I see." He had been wrong about the two already being a couple, so Sullivan supposed he could also be wrong about Ash being in love with Scribbs, but he thought it unlikely. "Do you suspect that she has feelings for you?" Scribbs nodded. "Then I would suggest you abandon words and try actions instead." With a woman like Ash, words were usually the right approach, but when she was being pigheaded, as she so often was, you simply had to cut to the chase.
"Actions?" Scribbs had never tried to woo a woman before and was feeling totally out of her depth. "D'you mean buy her flowers and stuff?"
Sullivan sighed. "No, Scribbs, I mean actions." He knew she wasn't that slow, so he could only assume her slow-wittedness was the result of stress. "I mean taking her in your arms and kissing her."
It was that particular approach, enacted by Ash, that had led to Scribbs' current dilemma and she doubted a mirror image repeat would solve anything. "I dunno, Boss, Ash doesn't really like surprises."
"Nonsense, she'll be thrilled, trust me."
Ash wasn't thrilled.
She accused Scribbs of making a mockery of her feelings and refused to speak with her for an entire week. In the end, Sullivan was forced to intervene, as the rift began to pollute the atmosphere of the CID and sour everyone's mood.
"I am only speaking to you," Ash had hissed, "for the good of the service." She would have liked to ignore Sullivan's request, but there was a twitch in the corner of his eye that did not bode well for refusal.
"Fine." Scribbs huffed.
"I still haven't forgiven you," Ash added, so as to make it perfectly clear where they stood and how far Scribbs would need to travel before she was back in her good graces.
"You haven't forgiven me? That's rich." Scribbs had been denied a confrontation for long enough and, now that Ash was speaking to her again, she was determined to have it out. "I was trying to show you that I loved you, you uptight cow, and you practically bit my head off!" She should have trusted her instincts and vetoed Sullivan's suggestion on the spot.
"Don't give me that! You were taking the piss and you know it." In her mind, Ash had convinced herself that nothing would ever come of her feelings for Scribbs, and nothing, least of all Scribbs' seesawing emotions, would convince her otherwise.
"I was not!"
The heated exchange was quickly drawing attention; half the station had conveniently placed themselves within earshot, while the other, saner half had made for the nearest exit. Sensing the scrutiny, Scribbs grabbed hold of Ash's sleeve and began pulling her towards the ladies', the indignant protest dying on Ash's lips as she saw the rogue's gallery of gossiping faces turned in their direction.
"You've got a bloody nerve," Ash seethed, the second the door to the ladies' was secure and Scribbs had checked all the cubicles for eavesdroppers. "You could have dislocated my shoulder."
"It would have served you right." Scribbs motioned towards the door and the offices beyond. "Did you want to have this conversation in front of everybody?"
"What conversation? The only thing I want from you is an apology and, if you can't handle that, silence would be my preferred option." It was a lie. Ash might have convinced herself that Scribbs was only toying with her, but she couldn't deny the thrill she got from their fights.
Scribbs had tried words, she had tried actions, she had even tried prayer, but nothing seemed to get through to her stubborn partner. "Okay, I give up." A life of loneliness and regret beckoned, and Scribbs could no longer ignore its call. "If you can't see that I'm head over heels in love with you, you're a far worse detective than I ever gave you credit for, and we're probably better off not being together."
Scribbs turned to leave but came to an abrupt halt as Ash grabbed for her shoulder. "What do you mean, I'm a worse detective than you thought? I'm an excellent detective." Pride in her abilities, if nothing else, had finally made a dent in Ash's wall of denial. "If you were really in love with me, I'd know."
"Think again, Sherlock." The close physical contact and heated atmosphere were putting ideas into Scribbs' head that she knew would only exacerbate the situation. "If you don't let me go, I'm going to kiss you, and this time, I'm not stopping until you admit that I'm in love with you."
The fingers of Ash's hand flexed but did not release their hold of Scribbs' shoulder.
The kiss was technically their third, but as the seconds ticked by and passion took over, it became their first. Long after Ash's admission would have been freely given, the kiss continued, and it wasn't until a petrified sergeant poked her head around the door to see if they were still alive, that they finally came up for air.
"You're in love with me," Ash admitted, after the sergeant had run back to Sullivan to report on her findings. She smiled. "I guess you really aren't as daft as you look."
"Hey!" Scribbs' bark of protest was quickly smothered by another kiss.
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